Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cynicism and Apathy

I have begun to hear a common theme among teachers that worries me. Many note that cynicism and apathy exist in the profession, but I feel that is common theme in many professions. However, each profession has a different trigger for these feelings. It seems cynicism and apathy are often results of frustration. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines frustration as "a deep chronic sense or state of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs. To me, frustration is the desire for something you cannot have. It is feeling like you are banging your head against a wall, like an effective change can not occur. Frustration is a belief that you do not have the capabilities to influence your environment to attain desired results. " It seems if cynicism and apathy are a result of frustration, then we need to determine what it is that we as a profession want but are not getting.

Most teachers have an answer for this. I have often heard that teachers who still care spend so much time preparing, trying to creatively engage students, and giving so much of their time and energy to students who continue to fail. I commonly hear the expression, "you can only do so much," or, "you can bring a horse to water, but..." The problem is, it is our job to help students learn and learn how to learn. So, when teachers try as hard as they can using all the tools they have -theories, books, professional development programs, other teacher's resources- and still do not get the desired results, the finger is turned back on the teacher. But teachers do not know what else to do. There is a disconnect between ideals, effort, and results. I believe apathy is a way to protect yourself from the truth, to survive by not pointing any fingers. I believe cynicism is a way to live in a world that does not work as one would hope. It is a way to seperate oneself as a wise person is a world faulty world. It is a way to point the finger the away from oneself.

Either way, as we learned in elementary school, pointing fingers is bad. So, how do I plan to navigate a profession with cynicism and apathy. I need to take advantage of my time studying education to dig deep and determine exactly what my desires are in eduction. What do I feel the purpose is? How do I see the relationship between students and teachers, among students and teachers? What theory of learning do I believe in? Are these goals or beliefs specific, measurable, attainable, realistic or reasonable, believable, and have a realistic time frame? Finally, how do I create an action plan to arrive at these goals or have my students arrive at these goals? To address a plan of action, one must take stock of where things stand, where they came from, and potential future outcomes ripe with intended and unintended consequences.

The educational system is incredible complex. There are so many aspects to consider when assessing the state of our schools. I think, before I am thrust fully into that sphere, I really need to determine where I stand. I understand and highly value the ability to evolve with the new experience and situations I will face during my first year teaching. However, I think it is imperative to start carving out my own belief system so I have a firm footing my first few years. Although taking a stand before being an actual teacher may provide a skewed or biased point of observation based on incomplete information. That is always the case, though. Hopefully my optimistic attitude and natural affinity to finding the positive parts of things will help me along the way.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Meghan. I think your observations about pointing fingers feel right on to me, and I'm delighted to see you thinking deeply about such important issues, working back and forth between the daily classroom issues and the larger philosophical concerns. In truth, a serious engagement with such matters (factoring in what you observe, who you talk to, your academic work, and most of all your teaching and your reflection on that teaching) is the most important part of your MAC year because, as you rightly deduce, if you haven't thought through these issues, and reached some conclusions-in-process, all of the great methodology in the world won't keep you in the classroom for long.